This is a moment when we need our most prominent and influential voices to advocate for those who cannot do so themselves. Many, including Rep. Ilhan Omar’s daughter, have taken to Twitter to call out the hypocrisy of these jokes. On Saturday morning, she tweeted: “y’all want to make jokes about innocent lives being lost in Iran and Iraq, imagine how horrible it would be if it was American lives being lost. those getting hit with air strikes aren’t laughing, they are innocent and dying.”
Some users have pointed out that dark comedy is many people’s way of coping. Others have fairly counterargued that this is not our trauma to cope with. Being in a position to joke about the horrors of war often means not actually being in the line of fire. Even as Iranians and Iraqis plead for an end to the mockery (one Twitter used posted, “I live with daily fucking PTSD from the trauma and I left Iraq 15 years ago. I can’t even begin to explain what it means to the Iraqis who live there. There are real lives on the line and you idiots are making jokes”), many turn a blind eye to chase clout or just blow off steam instead.
Let’s be honest here: Most of these jokes are not “coping mechanisms.” They’re narcissistic cries for attention from people who are so far removed from any actual danger that they have the privilege to disengage their empathy. While they’re churning out jokes online, many regions of the Middle East are still facing the repercussions of the last round of American imperialism.
In the time that it takes to draft a tweet about Iran, a person could call their representatives, donate to a charity, or amplify the voices of journalists and citizens in the Middle East bringing attention and aid to Iran. It’s bad enough that President Trump is trigger-happy, both online and off, without Americans following in his footsteps.
I don’t deny that it’s easier to direct our growing sense of existential dread into something digestible, like memes, or to just disassociate altogether. But what we, in our various positions of power and influence, need is not more empty noise. It’s time to stop sitting back and observing the injustices of the world and instead take action, in whatever capacity we’re able. If doing so means logging off, perhaps these past few days have proved that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Donald Trump’s Order to Kill Iranian Leader Qasem Soleimani Feels Like World War 3, but We Must Say No to War With Iran
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